When the Boomers die…

What happens when the largest demographic bulge in history (finally) goes away?

Jill Filipovic reviews the book “The Aftermath” by WaPo columnist Philip Bump:

Boomer babies fueled a huge spike in diaper sales. American school systems had to rapidly expand classrooms and hire an enormous number of new teachers to make way for the influx of young boomer pupils. While baby boomers spent much of their lives benefiting from a robust economy, Bump observes that their very existence helped to create that prosperity: They were a cohort of historically unprecedented size, whose basic need to be clothed, fed, housed and educated was a decades-long jobs creator and economy stimulator. And they were a cohort whose massive size and timing — not just in the immediate aftermath of World War II, but decades into a postindustrial era of growth, government investment and a strong middle class — meant cultural and economic dominance for much of their lives. As teenagers, boomers saw their desires met by marketers who had only just discovered that teenagers with few obligations and a little disposable cash were a huge potential consumer group. Now, as older adults and retirees with waning obligations and a lot of disposable cash, boomers continue to hold a significant chunk of American wealth and the consumer power that goes with it — and in turn, products and services for boomers have proliferated, a trend that will no doubt continue as they enter their sunset years. The government adjusted, too, smoothing boomers’ entrance into the world with significant investments in infrastructure and education, and now smoothing their exit with significant entitlement expenditures.

The analogy, not so politely, is “what happens after the snake eats a pig?” (Spoiler alert: it’s OK, metabolism and other processes change, then revert.) Unless a predator comes along while the snake is sitting there, unable to move because of its very large meal.

The book is chart-heavy, she says, and while she writes that she is going to upload several to instagram I cannot find them. Ah well. I’ll try the book, probably. The review:


Not only do boomers leave the work force they also increase the ranks of senior citizens. Social security and Medicare costs increase. More health care needed. Retirement communities growing like weeds. And you expect a boom in the need for funerals and cemetery plots. Cremation services.

They are still creating business opportunities. And as they pass adjustments are expected.


As the most selfish and self-centered generation in history, the boomers will leave a lot of problems in our wake…like the aftermath of a wild party where someone else has to clean up the mess.



To the extent any of this is really their fault, they learned it all from their parents. The Greediest Generation. The ones who voted themselves everything then as they began to age, began to pull up the ladder. The Greedies, the Silent Gen (can’t blame them too much but they didn’t mind going along for the ride) and Leading Edge/First Wave Boomers. We always had enough while they were getting their’s. Then we needed to start throwing things and people overboard because “we can’t affooooooord it!”


I have, only half jokingly, apologized to my nieces and nephews for the mess my generation is leaving them. I follow that up with encouragement that they are personally making great strides towards doing their part to accomplish that difficult task. Mainly that is in their great attitude toward life and they way they are able to see multiple sides of difficult issues, with honesty and compassion rather than blame and fault finding.

If enough of the Boomer’s children and grandchildren can do the same, future generations will be fine.



Nonsense. Every generation has its good and its bad, Boomers are no better or worse. The myth of the Greatest Generation is just that: nonsense. Nobody wanted to go be a hero in World War II, even though it was clear Hitler was bent on domination of Europe, and was close to it, he got close to knocking out the Soviet Union and other Baltics and we still did nothing. It was only when bombs began falling on us that we decided to be the champions of the world.

The generation before scraped through the Depression and the Dust Bowl, no thanks to the largesse of their fellow generationists. Soup lines rounded the block, tent cities housed thousands in public squares, and the wealthy tsk tsk tsked their way the entire decade.

Every generation leaves behind a mess, because we are always finding new problems to deal with. (Newspapers never run out of news; there is always something bad to report.) The baby boom crowd is no different, along the way we have opened the doors for Civil Rights for a historically oppressed people and brought women into the workplace. We invented rock-n-roll and turned it into an art form (disco excepted.) We volunteered in numbers never before seen in peacetime, and showed people why they should care about the environment. We brought computers into the home and chips to the world.

I’m proud to be part of this generation and yes, there are problems we haven’t solved (and the bulge of our group in the demographic flow presents some unique challenges), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Society has made more forward progress with my generation than with any other in human history.

Greedy? Sociopaths? Bah.


@Goofyhoofy I’m glad you posted. I was about to tap you on the shoulder.

It’s true that the Baby Boomers failed to invest in maintaining and expanding infrastructure, leaving a giant mess for future generations to repair. It was Baby Boomer business people who outshored American manufacturing.

I thought you would mention the expansion of the social safety net (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, the EPA, OSHA, civil and women’s rights progress) but of course those were enacted by the Greatest and Silent generations when the Baby Boomers were kids and teenagers. The only great social program enacted by Baby Boomers was the Affordable Care Act. I will give the Baby Boomers credit for actually putting these programs into practice while there was tremendous push-back from the earlier generations. At the same time running up huge government budget deficits to pay for the entitlement programs.

I don’t consider the invention of rock’n’roll to be a great art form any more than I consider 20th century visual arts to be a great art form. (When compared with the achievements of the past centuries which you might want to study if you haven’t already.)

Computers and robotics are nice but I’m not sure that spending billions of dollars so every teenager can text on their own cell phone is a truly crowning pride for a civilization that still hasn’t provided clean drinking water for all.

I’m glad and grateful to be a Baby Boomer. I think of our civilization a similar to 1910 – a time when we seemed to have amazing progress but unaware that World War 1 was just around the corner.

Our path is unsustainable.



I think en masse we were the worst for one reason. Prior generations had their things they knew were wrong and en masse affected changes.

The boomers know things are wrong and say “ME ME ME Generation”. Or “go blank yourself”.

Meanwhile the Millennials and Zs are actually nice to us and know it is a huge mess we almost did zero about. We save pennies when it cost the world quarters.


The big three. For SS no that runs a surplus, for Medicare somewhat, but you left off our military budget the real culprit. I support the military budget but try raising taxes and we hear are false claims about a need to cut welfare. Plus the people who want that military budget the most want much lower taxes.

Look in all fairness and this matters…we had to switch to supply side economics. Currently central Europe is switching to supply side economics. There are a lot of losers and losses in supply side economics.

The boomers did not have the money in relative terms to do anything for the major problems dollar wise because we were outsourcing our factories.

Now we are turning to demand side economics an industrial policy. The same boomers do not get the music has changed. Currently the debt ceiling needs to be raised and these guys are saying no. That position of not raising the debt ceiling does a few things. It tears down our industrial policy. We know we can get factories back from China. We need the infrastructure for those factories and more. The discussing is cutting funding for infrastructure to keep taxes low. Or lower them later. It is a supply side econ policy where we outsource. The other thing that happens is we default. As we default the full faith in the USD and other currencies will be gone. There is no printing more dollars as we did during Covid. That is hyper inflation if we default. It is a straight out Great Depression. Many US and global institutions hold our debt. The major financials would all bankrupt. The consumer and saver gone…you would see 25% unemployment in the US and starvation.

Why? Again believing things that do not help build this nation. The ME generation votes. The voting has ended. Now we get the results from our own hands.

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Perhaps not sociopaths, but the boomers are the first American generation to leave the country worse off. This generation was born during the high point of the American Century, the wealthiest and best educated with enormous potential for great accomplishment. They are now leaving the country with enormous debt, growing economic inequality, a looming climate crisis, and as the most obese generation in history with the resulting medical bills left to their kids.

America hasn’t been this politically polarized since perhaps the Civil War, in large part because a lot of boomers found they weren’t as successful as they hoped. Boomers became angry because automation took their jobs and minorities were eating away at their majority status. Boomers responded by condemning immigrants, feminists, nonChristians, elites, the press, and electing a demagogue to the White House.

The WWII greatest generation had their faults, but they faced their prejudices and passed groundbreaking Civil Rights legislation. They made financial sacrifices to help future generations through a variety of environmental actions such as the Clean air/water Acts, banning freon, removing lead from gasoline, etc. They held themselves accountable and did what they had to do. The Boomers have done the opposite. They try to codify their prejudices in laws and regulations, ranging from making it more difficult for certain groups to vote to limiting the reproductive rights of women. And when faced with the environmental issue of climate change the boomers did what they are good at, deny and avoid the issue while screaming about conspiracies.

Worst American generation ever.


Not the boomers, but the supporters of supply side economics–who didn’t see a massive deficit they didn’t LOVE. Hand them the bills as the consequence of their incompetence. Watch them RUN !!!


ummm…hate to horn in on the boomer hatefest, but it was the boomers who took to the streets to demonstrate against social injustice. It was the boomers who took to the streets to demonstrate against the destruction of the environment. It was the boomers who took to the streets to demonstrate against the war in 'Nam. It was the boomers who made the status quo in the 60s and 70s politically untenable.

These are mugshots of some of the “freedom riders” in 1961. Do they look like they hit the beach in Normandy? Nope. They look like kids. Some of them were teenagers at the time.


The boomers were 1946 to 1964. In 1961 the oldest boomer was 15 years old.

None in that photo are merely 15.

From 1967 to 1980 the boomers did their thing as you said. From 1981 till 1990 all was necessary in recapitalizing the US economy. After that it was all corruption. En masse the battle was over. There was a decline and spit for those who said things could be done here.

My point being none of the white kids were from the so-called “greatest generation” that had lived through the depression and war. Not technically boomers, but the leading edge of the drive for social justice. That “greatest generation” was perfectly fine with the status quo during the 50s and 60s, in their whites only suburbs, whites only offices, and whites only churches, no birth control, divorce frowned on, little opportunity for women.

When I was working at the pump seal company in the late 70s, there was one black guy working in the offices. vs dozens of whites. There were zero women in any position of authority. There were a couple female draftsmen, all the rest were secretaries. That was “greatest generation” management.

The US seems to have hit it’s peak in the late 70s, during the drive to ratify the equal rights amendment. Then, many of the boomers seemed to turn into their parents.



Basically saying the same thing. Those of us who wanted better opportunities for the entire country were locked out.

On these boards, not working with people on a job, and only discussing econ there is a lot to express about economically making this country much better.

The generation that was launched into the 1930’s might disagree with you. As would the generation that found itself in the Long Depression (late 1800’s.) [Its contemporaneous name was The Great Depression until the one in 1930 came along.]

Did you live through the 60’s? Bus riders were being murdered in the South, construction workers were beating up people with long hair, and Archie, Edith and “Meathead” could have been a real life documentary in many American homes. Bombs were going off at recruiting stations, National Guard troops were stationed at multiple colleges, and the entire education system was shut down for a week nationwide following the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State.

Yes, this. It is pretty widely accepted that the 60’s and 70’s were the era of “the young”, when youth and youth culture and youth sensibilities ruled. That was the leading edge of the Boomer generation, and great and wonderful things were accomplished. The environmental movement, the women’s movement, the Civil Rights movement, the flowering of (and assistance of) the music, arts, and writing - that was all Boomers.

When did it change? I would locate it around 1980, and the reaction against the cultural change - using the election of 1980 as a meaningful turning point. One interesting thing about that election: other than party registration (obviously) and race, a significant predictor of how people voted - and who got elected - was age. Up to age 35 the vote is almost perfectly split. That’s Boomers. Older people, i.e. “the Greatest Generation” came out in droves in favor of the toothy actor from California. Younger people i.e. Boomers, continued to vote against the status quo (well, as much as our two party system allows.) Above 35 it tilts heavily in the direction of longing for the stability and faux comity of the 1950’s. That’s “The Greatest.”

The devolvement into “Supply Side”, the disemboweling of environmental, worker, union, and other culture shifting ideas owes to the Greatest Generation. We continue to live with the after-effects to this day.


“Maintaining” infrastructure is unsexy, building it makes headlines and scores points. When it was stone it lasted; since the advent of iron and steel infrastructure has largely been allowed to deteriorate. The roads in the 40’s and 50’s were no picnic, to cite just one example. Buildings get torn down more often than rebuilt from the inside out.

I’ll give you some of that (SS, Medicare/caid, UE) but the EPA, civil and women’s rights were heavily pushed by youth, not the generation of the 50’s. (Rachael Carson was an outlier, one of the reasons she is so remembered today. It was the young who picked up that banner, creating Earth Day and other consciousness raising events.)

You’d be wrong about that. Some of it is crap, but there is much that celebrates and defines the human experience. And what we see of past masters is simply a demonstration of survivor bias. There is some great from that period, surely, but there was, on a percentage basis, probably just as much dreck as the current era. And yeah, I’ve had an art history course and visit the museums. “The David” is the pinnacle, to be sure, but then “A Day In the Life” is pretty good, too, on several levels.

I don’t disagree but this strikes me as the Ted Kazinski theory of technology; if I like it (he used a typewriter) it’s good, otherwise it’s those damn teenagers and their cell phones. Chips and screens allow access to all the information in the world, if you use it to watch cat videos that’s not the chips’ fault.

Thanks, Malthus. And you kids get off my lawn!

Personally, I would love to be around to see what the next and next iterations are. A precious few generations get to see the kind of radical transformation we have been privileged to witness. From Stone Age to bronze, from agriculture to industrial, from kerosene to electric, from shop work to mass production, and now from paper to digital. I have great hope for the human race and I think we will solve the most pressing problems. Not all, but that’s never happened in history so that’s no big deal.

Sadly there’s a war or similar every few decades, so it’s not a straight path upwards, but the overall direction is definitely positive and has been for centuries.


I doubt it. The poverty rate in the US and globally declined sharply in the generation prior to the one beginning in 1930 as did child labor in the US. Penicillin was discovered in the late 1920s, which alone made life a lot less frightening.

All generations had their civil unrest. But after the Civil War American institutions worked for the most part. Congress didn’t shut down the government over budgetary matters, political parties didn’t try to overturn elections, citizens didn’t storm the capitol. All these are part of the legacy of the Boomer generation.

The Boomers became the political majority in 1990s (they gained the majority of the House in 1998). How has politics been over the past 25 years? Government shutdowns, impeachments, and culture wars. No one should weep when the Boomers leave the political stage.

Don’t forget that Reagan ran again in 1984, when the boomer generation was between ages 20-38 years. That age range went for Reagan by a 15% margin. In 2012 the Boomers ranged in years from 48-66. That group voted for Romney over Obama. In 2016 the Boomers were ages 52-70. That’s the demographic that won the election for trump. In 2020 the Boomers were 56-74 years old. A majority of them again tried to elect trump. That is pretty consistent support from the majority of Boomers for supply side economics and the disemboweling of environmental, worker, union, and other culture shifting ideas.

In contrast, the last hurrah for the Greatest Generation was in the 1992 and 1996 elections when their age range was 65-91 and 69-95, respectively. Both times the majority of this generation went heavily for Bill Clinton. Despite their age and growing up in much more conservative times, the Greatest Generation exited as political moderates. I salute them.


Please read some history. After the Civil War, newly freed slaves voted, ran for office, and were elected. In response, white political terrorism murdered voters and politicians, and overthrew governments, creating the Jim Crow system and systematic suppression of Black voting.

“To suppress political reform and hinder Black political development, white mobs targeted African American leaders and political officials, as well as Black community members who worked to encourage Black political engagement.”


In 1868, Democrats in Louisiana terrorized and murdered Black citizens to prevent them from voting.

“Following state elections in 1898, white supremacists moved into the US port of Wilmington, North Carolina, then the largest city in the state. They destroyed black-owned businesses, murdered black residents, and forced the elected local government - a coalition of white and black politicians - to resign en masse.”

In 1868, Solomon George Washington Dill, a white man, introduced a resolution at South Carolina’s Constitutional Convention to protect formerly enslaved Black people. He was assassinated four months later.

“During the Reconstruction period—from 1865 to 1877—thousands of formerly enslaved people across the South were voted into office.

Such anger on the part of wealthy whites contributed to the rise of violent groups supported by them, such as the K**, and ultimately to an organized, successful political effort to undo Reconstruction through violence.”


I agree, and I’m not even a Baby Boomer. Every generation has some great people, some mediocre people, and some deplorable people. It’s unfair to lump people with others of the same age. We all grew up with peers whom we disliked or whom disliked us. How would you like to be guilty by chronological association?